Updated: Feb 18
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Louis Pasteur and The Attenuated Vaccine
by Ian Buchanan
Louis Pasteur was born in 1822 in Dole, France (Development of the Attenuated Vaccine, 2016). As a child, Louis was much more gifted at the arts than academic studies and no one would have guessed that he would become a scientist. Even more surprisingly, he would later be known around the world as the “father” of the attenuated vaccine. This advancement led to many more discoveries and saved lives (Development of the Attenuated Vaccine, 2016).
Early in Louis’s career he was studying a disease in silkworms that was destroying the silk business in France. People could not see the disease, so Louis proposed the Germ Theory, which states that many diseases are caused by microorganisms that cannot be spotted by the human eye. His Germ Theory greatly affected the medical world and would lead to many practical changes concerning how we live and how medical treatment is performed ("Attenuated Vaccine"). In the early 1870s, Louis was already a renowned chemist and scientist in France, and by 1873 he was chosen to be an associate member of France’s Academy of Medicine ("Attenuated Vaccine").
Louis started to investigate chicken cholera in 1877, which is a disease that was decimating the breeding chicken population. Following Edward Jenner and his discovery of the smallpox disease, Louis reasoned that vaccines could be developed for all other diseases. He wanted to use this logic and find a vaccine for chicken cholera (Development of the Attenuated Vaccine, 2016). In 1878, Louis was able to culture the bacteria of chicken cholera and started to inoculate chickens; however, many chickens died due to unsafe inoculation methods. Louis continued studying, looking to find safer inoculation methods.
An Accidental Discovery
In 1879, Louis observed that old culture somehow lost its virulence. Louis asked his assistant to dose the chickens with fresh culture before he left for holiday. The assistant forgot and a month later performed the procedure using the aged cultures. The chickens only had mild signs of the disease and survived. Louis, intrigued by this strange outcome, dosed the chickens with fresh viral bacteria and they survived yet again. The weak bacteria, which lost its virulence after sitting in the lab for a month, prepared the chicken’s immune system to fight the disease, immunizing the chickens from Cholera. This is how the attenuated vaccine was discovered ("Attenuated Vaccine").
An Enduring Legacy
Louis went on to discover and create vaccines for many more diseases until he died in 1895. Now, because of him, we have the attenuated vaccine, and we have advanced our knowledge of vaccines tremendously since his time so that we now have many different types of vaccines with a multitude of uses, which have saved millions of lives. Currently, his methods and experiments are taught by schools around the world. Through hard work, determination, and a dash of luck Louis Pasteur revolutionized the medical world with the attenuated vaccine.
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